Statue Unveiled at UDC to Honor Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson, “The Grandfather of Black Basketball”

Statue Unveiled at UDC to Honor Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson, “The Grandfather of Black Basketball”

Statue Unveiled at UDC to Honor Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson, “The Grandfather of Black Basketball”


Dr. E.B. Henderson StatueUDC’s sports legacy was on full display last Saturday as a large group gathered for an unveiling ceremony of a statue honoring Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson known as the “Grandfather of Black Basketball.” The event attracted other UDC sports alumni including former Harlem Globetrotter Charles “Choo” Smith, Jr., and Basketball Africa League President Amadou Gallo Fall.

The life-size statue was erected in front of the Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson Sports Complex on UDC’s Van Ness campus, which was renamed to honor the alumnus last February. The projects designed to honor Henderson at UDC are led by Board of Trustees Alumni members Barrington Scott and Anntoinette White-Richardson; his grandson, Edwin Bancroft Henderson II; as well as the UDC Foundation.

In support of the Dr. E.B. Henderson projects, UDC received a $200,000 lead gift from the Leonsis Foundation and Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE), the ownership group of the NBA’s Washington Wizards, WNBA’s Washington Mystics, NHL’s Washington Capitals and Capital One Arena, among additional sports and entertainment holding. The gift kicked off funding for the Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson Memorial Fund Campaign.

UDC Director of Athletics Patricia Thomas and President Ronald Mason, Jr. welcomed participants to the unveiling.

“Dr. E.B. Henderson, an alumnus from one of our legacy institutions is symbolic of everything that UDC stands for,” Mason said. “He was an educator, an author, civil rights activist and in his own way, he changed the world. If it had been a different time and a different place, he could have been president of the United States. We believe in that type of potential, and we are here to make sure young people today are able to reach their highest levels of human potential.”

Dr. Henderson graduated in 1904 at the top of his class from Minor Normal School, an early building block of UDC. He received a bachelor’s degree from Howard University, a master’s degree from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in athletic training from Central Chiropractic College in Kansas City, Mo. He later attended Harvard University’s Dudley Sargent School of Physical Training and became the first African American man to earn certification to teach physical education in the nation.

He became the first Black man to receive a National Honor Fellowship in the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation and was inducted posthumously by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013. Dr. Henderson was inducted into UDC’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.

He is credited as the first to introduce basketball to African Americans on a widely organized scale after learning of the game at Harvard and establishing teams at the 12th Street YMCA in Washington, D.C.

“This statue is so important because it memorializes my grandfather,” said Edwin Henderson, II, grandson of the honoree. “You live in Washington, D.C., and you see statues everywhere. This is in line with that. It means that he will not be forgotten.”

The unveiling was kicked off with a celebratory brunch with keynote speaker Charles “Choo” Smith, Jr., a UDC Hall of Famer. Smith graduated from the university in 1998 and was his team’s MVP. He finished his college career as the school’s all-time leader in steals and assists. He played for the world-renowned Original Harlem Globetrotters and was inducted into UDC’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015. He has created the Choo Smith Youth Empowerment, Inc., basketball camps, and is building a school for at-risk students on 20 acres in Baltimore, Md.

“I was always told to honor those who have come before you. We honor Dr. E.B. Henderson for bringing basketball to African Americans in Washington, D.C.,” Smith said. “It touches my heart, because without him there is no me. He brought a game that requires discipline, leadership, and more importantly it teaches self-control. He took the time to bring something back and give of himself. He shared his greatness.”

The statue of Dr. E.B. Henderson sits on markings representing a basketball court outside of the sports complex. It was created by Brian Hanlon, founder of Hanlon Sculpture Studio in New Jersey. He is recognized for sculptures of notable African American figures including Harriett Tubman and Georgetown Basketball Coach John R. Thompson, Jr.

At the unveiling, Amadou Gallo Fall, said Dr. Henderson is an inspiration to him as he breaks new ground using basketball to open doors of opportunity in Africa as Henderson did in the U.S.

Fall, a former Firebird men’s basketball player and 1993 Magna Cum Laude graduate, worked for the Senegalese Basketball Federation. He scouted for the Dallas Mavericks, then became the director of player personnel and vice president of international affairs for 12 years. In 2002, he created the Sports for Education and Economic Development (SEEDS) Academy, a global nonprofit established to develop young Senegalese basketball players to study in the U.S. and abroad. SEED has served more than 2,000 students. It also has 100 alumni living in 16 countries.

“We were created to make sure that change happens,” Gallo Fall said. “It all started right here for me at UDC. I was inspired by Dr. E.B. Henderson to bring the game back to Senegal. We are using Dr. Henderson’s ideas in Africa to change the narrative. We want to build confidence in young people.”

Monumental Sports & Entertainment Chief Marketing Officer Hunter Lochmann surprised the audience by announcing a $20,000 gift for the Dr. E.B. Henderson Fund to reach its goal of $300,000.

The legacy of Dr. Henderson will live on through numerous projects that will continue in his name, including a book that is being prepared by his grandson.

A native Washingtonian and honors graduate of M Street School and Miner Normal School No. 2, while at Harvard, Dr. Henderson learned basketball at the YMCA in Springfield, Mass., the birthplace of basketball. Upon returning to segregated Washington D.C., Dr. Henderson had trouble finding courts or clubs for black ball players. He organized black basketball teams, leagues, and referees, and raised funds for the Colored YMCA in Washington, D.C. Henderson used basketball as a catalyst for physical education training, leadership development and sportsmanship.

Henderson was a pioneer in civil rights matters as well. He was instrumental in forming the first rural branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He served two terms as president of the Virginia chapter of the NAACP and was on the board of directors of the DC branch. As a public school teacher in Washington, D.C., his students included notable figures such as musician Duke Ellington and medical pioneer Dr. Charles R. Drew.

Henderson co-authored the Spalding “Official Handbook of the Inter-Scholastic Athletic Association of Middle Atlantic States” from 1910-1913. Additionally, he wrote “The Negro in Sports” in 1939, revised in 1949, and “The Black Athlete” in 1968. His estimated number of published articles is more than 3,000.

The Dr. E.B. Henderson Memorial Fund Campaign at UDC supported the development of the statue. The campaign was established through the UDC Foundation, the university’s charitable partner, in honor of Henderson.

Donations received through the campaign will support four areas: Youth Summer Sports Camp Scholarships launching in 2024; Social Justice Ambassador Program Stipends, a leadership development fellowship offered through the Center for Diversity, Inclusion & Multicultural Affairs (CDIMA); UDC and Africa Student-Athlete Exchange Program with the SEED Academy – the first basketball student-athlete academy in Africa; and funds to address the current needs of UDC’s Athletic Department, supporting student-athletes’ needs that are not met by the annual operating budget.

“Just the mere fact that we are able to celebrate a historic icon is so important and really amplify hidden voices. He’s our hidden treasure,” said Rodney Trapp, vice president for university advancement. “It’s not often that you get to honor an African American and have their image replicated and inscribed. Not a lot of people know about him. It’s important to be able to tell the story of Dr. E.B. Henderson, and to recognize an alumnus. We want to honor someone who has been such a tremendous influence on young people and someone who has a great influence on society in general.”